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AIDS Caregivers: Despite Lower Numbers, Action Needed

AIDS Caregivers: Despite Lower Numbers, Action Needed
Groups Say Statistics a Sign of Hope — and a Challenge

ROME, NOV. 23, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Although statistics revised this week by the United Nations indicate there are fewer people living with HIV/AIDS than previously thought, care agencies say the numbers call for renewed action, not complacency.

Figures released by the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the World Health Organization have lowered the estimated of the number of people living with HIV to 33.2 million, down from 39 million. These numbers were welcomed by Church workers who respond to HIV/AIDS around the world as a sign of hope and a challenge to keep promises.

The reduced figures are primarily due to improved data-gathering methodology and better information from many countries, particularly India. There are, however, some indications that better access to treatment and more intensive efforts at prevention have stabilized the spread of the disease in some countries.

“We welcome any indication that fewer people are living with HIV, whether it is through more accurate statistics or because a strong response in some areas is making a positive impact,” said Linda Hartke, coordinator of the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance.

“But in no way can we relax our efforts. HIV remains a devastating disease not just for individuals, but for families, communities and nations,” she added.

Monsignor Robert Vitillo, special adviser on HIV and AIDS at Caritas Internationalis, pointed out that the impact of AIDS far exceeds the statistics.

“The direct work of our Caritas member organizations and other Catholic organizations in care, counseling and support have always indicated that the impact of AIDS is far greater than the official figures have ever shown,” he explained.

“The response to AIDS is not just about treating a disease,” Monsignor Vitillo continued, “but treating all the factors in our society that continue to fuel the spread of the disease and inhibit our response, such as stigma and discrimination, violence and injustice against women, poverty, isolation, abuse. We see this in the faces all around us, and these numbers cannot be quantified.”

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Filed under: Caritas

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